Drumbeat: July 22, 2010

Three of every four oil and gas lobbyists worked for federal government

Three out of every four lobbyists who represent oil and gas companies previously worked in the federal government, a proportion that far exceeds the usual revolving-door standards on Capitol Hill, a Washington Post analysis shows.

Key lobbying hires include 18 former members of Congress and dozens of former presidential appointees. For other senior management positions, the industry employs two former directors of the Minerals Management Service, the since-renamed agency that regulates the industry, and several top officials from the Bush White House. Federal inspectors once assigned to monitor oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have landed jobs with the companies they regulated.

Tropical depression races toward BP's leaky well

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO – A tropical depression racing toward the Gulf of Mexico Thursday increased pressure on BP and the U.S. government to decide whether to evacuate dozens of ships at the site of the ruptured oil well.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm system, which has already caused flooding in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, could become Tropical Storm Bonnie later Thursday and reach the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday.

Atlantic Tropical Wave 'Near 100%' Chance of Cyclone Formation

A tropical system nearing the Bahamas is rapidly strengthening, and is certain to soon become a tropical depression or storm, the National Hurricane Center reported Thursday on its website.

Current Gas Production to Offset Hurricane Disruptions

Strong momentum in domestic U.S. production growth and a declining share of Gulf of Mexico production in the U.S. supply mix should cushion the effect of any hurricane-related disruptions of production on the U.S. natural gas market, according to a recent report by Barclays Capital.

A destructive hurricane could certainly lift prices in the near term outlook, oversupplied balances limit the longer-term upside. However, history has shown that hurricanes can take large amounts of supply off the market for an extended period of time, the relationship between the projected intensity of hurricane activity in the Atlantic and production shut-ins is imprecise.

Oil market equilibrium fragile, says think tank

LONDON (UPI) -- The current equilibrium in the global oil market remains fragile, with continuing stability still dependent on imponderables in the geopolitical arena, the London Center for Global Energy Studies said in its monthly oil report for July.

CGES Chief Economist Leo Drollas told United Press International in an interview more caution was called for while interpreting China's intake of oil as increased Chinese consumption and while depending on a European economic recovery to trigger change in the market.

Stuart Staniford: Oil production during deleveraging

Under the circumstances, the general course of oil prices seems almost completely unknowable. One can imagine periods of relatively healthy recovery (a la 1934-1936) coinciding with supply restrictions and causing prices to shoot through the roof. One can also imagine the al-Shahristani plan bringing on a flood of new oil unluckily timed with a contractionary episode and depressing prices quite a bit below recent levels.

A sample of Gulf oil spill doomsday theories

The drama of the Deepwater Horizon disaster has captivated many, and the mix of methane gas in the oil leak has made perfect fodder for doomsday theories and rumours. Some of these have turned out to be true, such as the contention that the actual size of the leak was much greater than BP and the US authorities were at first admitting. Others, we can now safely say, were simply implausible. Most of them involved methane gas and extinction in the same sentence.

New Canada heavy oil contract seen aiding hedging

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A new index futures contract for Canadian heavy crude oil should simplify hedging for companies forced to deal with wildly fluctuating price spreads against light oil, one of its developers said.

Refining to boost big oil company profits

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Fatter-than-expected refining margins and higher crude and natural gas prices will lift quarterly results at big oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp and may push profits above analysts' estimates.

Global refining margins have suffered for the past two years as the economic slowdown shrank demand for fuels like diesel and gasoline. Now, gasoline demand has turned higher as more people drive to summer vacation destinations.

Oil spill proves wake-up call for China

Black oil is washing ashore, at least one person has drowned in the viscous slick, and efforts to clean up the mess are floundering.

That might sound like the Gulf of Mexico but is actually happening along the coast of Dalian, where China is grappling with its largest reported oil spill in recent memory. China’s rapid economic growth has come at great environmental cost but this appears to be the first time that oil has caused so much natural damage.

France Faces Power Output Shortage in 2013, RTE Says

(Bloomberg) -- France faces a shortage of power capacity beginning in 2013 as the new Flamanville reactor will barely compensate for the shutdown of outdated fossil-fuel plants, grid operator Reseau de Transport d’Electricite said.

While French power supply will be “reasonably assured” until 2013, rising demand will create a shortfall of 3 gigawatts by 2015, RTE said in a report released in Paris today. There’s also “greater uncertainty” on the availability of supply from neighboring countries to meet the shortfall, the Electricite de France SA unit said.

M&C Energy Group: French power shortages will impact UK

Reports that France will see a power shortfall by as soon as 2013 will put greater pressure on the UK’s dwindling supply and force up prices – that’s according to the UK’s largest energy consultancy, M&C Energy Group.

France is facing a growing dependency on electricity imports as demand outpaces supply, particularly at peak times.

David Hunter, Energy Analyst from M&C Energy Group, believes that energy will become a scarce commodity resulting in increased prices and real risks of blackouts.

Desperate in the dark

SHARJAH — ‘‘My wife is pregnant and can’t come down from the 8th floor and I have a one-year-old who cannot be taken out alone. It is very difficult to stay in the house the whole night without electricity. I don’t know what to do,” said a desperate Abdul from Buteena area in Sharjah, which has been hit by power cuts for three days now.

The heat is rising in the emirates, so are frustration levels of residents who are left in the dark. Many said they would have been better prepared if the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) had informed them of scheduled outages.

Heat-stroke cases quadruple as Sharjah power cuts continue

SHARJAH // A construction worker has died and the number of people being treated in hospital for heat exhaustion has soared to four times the normal level as daily power cuts continue to hit Sharjah.

And angry residents yesterday rounded on Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) for its continued silence over the cuts.

Help stop power outages while saving a little money too

PSE&G's Cool Customer Program is a voluntary program for residents and small businesses. Those who wish to participate must have electric central air conditioning. According to PSE&G, those who sign up for the program allow the company to cycle their air conditioning by using a small device attached to the unit. PSE&G works with PJM Interconnection, the electric grid operator for 14 states and Washington, D.C. When PJM sends out a request to conserve energy, a microwave will send a signal to each air conditioner, thus, it will cycle more often. During cycling, the indoor fan continues to circulate air. According to PSE&G, cycling is only done on weekdays from noon-10 p.m. and never on holidays.

Shell imports fuel to meet Calgary demand

Shell is importing gasoline from Vancouver and the U.S. to address a shortage that has resulted in some Calgary stations running dry.

Russia set to auction giant oilfield

Russia will auction off the giant Trebs and Titov field, the largest oil deposit to be sold at an auction in the past five years, in the fourth quarter of the year, the government said today.

Recession breeds wave of supercommuters

"This is different from people who say 'I want to live near the ocean' ... and are willing to trade the difficult commute because they get that benefit," Pisarski said. "In this case it's simply the necessity to open up and expand the range over which they're willing to look to get a job."

The weak housing market, which has left many Americans owing more to the bank than their house is worth, has likely exacerbated the problem because people can’t simply sell their house and go to where the jobs are.

“People are frozen in place,” Pisarski said.

The Humble Bus Takes Off

At a time when flights have been cut and ridership on trains has been relatively flat, traveling by bus has been on the rise. Last year, bus service increased 5 percent, and it rose nearly 10 percent in 2008, according to Joseph Schwieterman, a DePaul University professor who has studied the decline and comeback of bus travel. In fact, in 2007, when he and his team of transportation researchers began studying why travelers shunned buses, they found themselves in the midst of a turnaround.

While 18-to-35-year-olds were the first to embrace new bus lines like MegaBus and BoltBus, which offer cheap express service between major cities in the Midwest and Northeast, the appeal of bus travel has expanded to include business travelers and riders older than 35 who want to avoid the stress of driving.

“Even the older generation has abandoned their disdain for the bus,” Dr. Schwieterman said. “They don’t even think of it in the same vein as Greyhound.”

High-speed railroading

But the problem with America’s plans for high-speed rail is not their modesty. It is that even this limited ambition risks messing up the successful freight railways. Their owners worry that the plans will demand expensive train-control technology that freight traffic could do without. They fear a reduction in the capacity available to freight. Most of all they fret that the spending of federal money on upgrading their tracks will lead the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the industry watchdog, to impose tough conditions on them and, in effect, to reintroduce regulation of their operations. Attempts at re-regulation have been made in Congress in recent years, in response to rising freight rates. “The freight railroads feel they are under attack,” says Don Phillips, a rail expert in Virginia.

Iconic Citgo sign visible over Fenway's Green Monster to get a makeover

BOSTON — The iconic red, white and blue Citgo sign visible over Fenway Park's famous Green Monster in left field is going dark for a couple months for an extreme makeover.

The Venezuelan oil company says 218,000 LED lights on the 334-square-metre sign will be replaced with more environmentally friendly and weather-resistant lights.

John Michael Greer: Closing the circle

Get a piece of paper and a pen and I’ll show you how that works. At the top of the paper, draw a picture of Santa Claus in his sleigh, surrounded by an enormous pile of gifts, and label it "infinite material resources." In the middle, draw a picture of yourself sitting on heaps of consumer goodies; put in some twinkle dust, too, because we’ll pretend (as modern industrial societies do) that the goodies somehow got there without anybody having to work sixteen-hour days in a Third World sweatshop to produce them. Down at the bottom of the paper, draw some really exotic architecture, with a sign out in front, put up by the local Chamber of Commerce, saying "Welcome to Away." You know, Away – the mysterious place where no one’s ever been, but where stuff goes when you don’t want it around any more. Now draw one arrow going from Santa to you, and another from you to Away.

Does this picture look familiar? It should. It has the same pattern as a very simple energy flow diagram, of the sort you sketched out last week, with Santa as the energy source and Away as the diffuse background heat where all energy ends up. That sort of diagram works perfectly well with energy. It doesn’t work worth beans with any material substance, but it’s how people in modern industrial societies are taught to think about matter.

Dead crops area grows to ten million hectares

The area of the crops dead due to drought has increased to 10 mln. hectares, the Russian Minister of Agriculture Yelena Scrinnik has said. Speaking for the radio station “The Echo of Moscow” on Thursday, she said that the state of emergency has been introduced in 23 regions of the country. She also said there is a 7 million ton shortage of fodder.

Cargoes redirected as Iran struggles to buy

Some gasoline cargoes previously destined for Iran have been re-offered, leaving the market well-supplied, but firm demand from most Middle Eastern countries helped to keep differentials steady.

The European Union is expected to adopt sanctions against Iran on Monday, which, combined with US and UN sanctions, adds to the difficulties Iran faces in importing fuel to meet domestic demand.

'Owners of the cargoes are offering (them) to the market because they cannot take (them) to Iran any more,' one trader said. 'It is getting harder on Iran.'

Gas Prices Around the World: What It Costs to Fill 'Er Up

And after Labor Day, Fred Rozell, director of Retail Pricing at the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), sees prices retreating from summer levels. Because crude prices remain relatively steady and the economy looks like it's "going to be in malaise for quite some time," Rozell says, "I would suspect after the hurricane season you'll see prices decrease. I don't think they'll get as low as $2, but they could get down to around $2.20 or $2.30."

Still, whether costs dip or not, gasoline is a downright bargain for Americans compared to what many of our overseas neighbors pay. Even in the Western U.S., where gas prices are now running at nearly $3.50 a gallon, they'd still be the envy of many drivers in big cities across the globe.

Saudi Aramco’s bold move

Foreign firms could lose out if Saudi energy major gains confidence: Yanbu project will be the first Saudi refinery developed solely by Aramco.

Saudi Aramco extends bids for Yanbu refinery unit

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - State oil giant Saudi Aramco has asked firms to extend the deadline for bids to build one of the units at the 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) Yanbu refinery, industry sources said on Thursday.

Electricity is too cheap in the Gulf

I don’t believe in global warming, mainly because it’s too frightening to believe in, but also because it seems like nonsense. So I don’t think Gulf countries should use less electricity for so-called environmental reasons. Instead, I think Gulf countries should use less electricity because patently they are not interested in making enough to go around – not when everyone is using so much and they could sell the oil needed to make it on the international markets at around $80 a barrel. If I was them, I wouldn’t either. And, probably, neither would you.

That said, it is a problem that is only going to get worse over the coming years unless something drastic is done. At the moment, relatively few people suffer when there isn’t enough electricity to go around – mainly people in less affluent areas, people less likely to be able to cause a major fuss.

Spill czar: 'It's my call'

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- For Gulf businesses wondering if their oil spill claims will be paid, there's one guy who'll decide -- Kenneth Feinberg, the former special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Pawning the family heirlooms

Littman's, a family-owned store since 1927, was traditionally steeped in sentiment. When Hornstein's father, Bert, owned the store, he'd order his employees: "Don't sell the silver," referring to customers' family heirlooms held as collateral. "They'll come back."

Today, the son says, they don't come back.

In this economy, "There's a new normal. Possessions aren't as dear as they used to be, " Hornstein says. "We're in a disposal society where eBay is the great equalizer." Strapped for cash, customers pawn family treasures thinking they can turn to eBay for replacements when the economy improves.

One Person’s Oil Addict is Another’s Intelligent Consumer

In the last few weeks, rhetoric about America’s oil addiction has resurfaced, years after being pushed by former President George W. Bush. It is meant to explain the inability of Americans to become energy independent or at least to significantly reduce consumption. The implication is that consumers are either foolish or brainwashed, and that the government is a slave to the oil industry’s lobby.

I submit that this claim reveals an ideological bias, as well as a degree of energy illiteracy.

Libyan oil: where does it go?

As BP's business interests in Libya have come under scrutiny following the Gulf oil leak, Channel 4 News looks at the international companies that do business in Libya, and where its oil goes.

Why American Oil Companies Passed on Shale Gas

Why is it that the 5 largest European oil companies have all made significant investments in America’s future natural gas production, but only one of our top 5 has taken the plunge? In true American fashion it seems we have yet again turned to our best and brightest to financially engineer foreign investment into the United States.


Natural gas: the name alone seems like a sensible and friendly alternative to crude oil or diesel. But the most extensive homeland drilling campaigns in US history are anything but natural once you factor in the lethal cocktail of chemicals and the invasive drilling process (called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”) used to extract natural gas. Filmmaker Josh Fox gets a far deeper understanding of this imminent environmental disaster when he’s offered around $100,000 for drilling rights on his bucolic Pennsylvania homestead and decides to find out if it’s worth the money.

Subsidised coal mines to be closed in 2014

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Tuesday (20 March) said loss-making mines in the EU must be closed down by autumn 2014.

Rules coming into force in January will only allow state subsidies to be given to hard-coal (anthracite) mines if closure plans are in place. The closure plans will have to ensure that the mines are shut down by 15 October, 2014, at the latest.

Hydrocarbon Man

Oxy, otherwise known as Occidental Petroleum, has produced this spot asking consumers to consider how much of our world depends on petroleum based products. But in the realm of unintended consequences, the ad is a hit within the peak oil & alternative energy community simply because it drives home the point that unless we act now to replace the hydrocarbon economy that underpins our lifestyles we're doomed. Our dependency is laid threadbare literally as the ad leaves its hero in his skivvies.

A Shark Fin Promotion Backfires

This month it ran a special promotion offering Citibank credit card holders 15 percent off a ‘‘shark’s fin and garoupa’’ dinner at Maxim’s Chinese Cuisine outlets. ‘‘An ample quantity of shark’s fin is given,’’ a July 11 newspaper ad assured readers.

The promotion drew swift condemnation, with a lively discussion group created on Facebook and an e-mail campaign aimed at Citibank’s marketing manager.

US court halts Arctic oil drilling for review

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US judge ordered a halt to offshore oil and gas drilling off the north coast of Alaska for a new environmental review.

Federal Judge Ralph Beistline in Anchorage, Alaska, said in a 21-page decision Wednesday that the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service failed to conduct adequate analysis before granting the drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea in 2008.

Oil edges above $77 on Europe, China optimism

Oil prices edged above $77 a barrel Thursday as investor optimism about demand in China and Europe offset uncertainty over the U.S. economic recovery.

U.S. Refinery Profits May Fall as Economic Growth Sputters

The profit from making gasoline may slide to the lowest level in 10 months as faltering U.S. consumer growth hurts refiners that have boosted production in anticipation of an economic rebound.

Margins on gasoline, the difference between what producers pay for crude and how much they get for the refined fuel, are poised to drop as much as 75 percent in coming months, according to James Cordier, president of futures brokerage Liberty Trading Group in Tampa, Florida. Margins, or crack spreads, were $10.07 today, down 46 percent from the 15-month high of $18.77 on May 13, based on futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange. They reached $2.23 in September 2009.

Is $77 oil cheap? Look to the future of cars in China

In late 2007, Jean Claude Gandur, the founder of Addax Petroleum, a Toronto-listed oil company that had built up a big production portfolio in West Africa, pretty much knew how his company’s story would end. Addax, he predicted without the hesitation, would become a takeover target and it would go to a Chinese, perhaps an Indian, buyer.

Why? Because China’s demands for energy were growing faster than anyone in the West realized, he said. Chinese oil companies would pay top dollar to lock up supplies and wouldn’t shy away from political hot spots. He called it right. In mid-2009, Sinopec, China’s biggest oil products company, snapped up Addax for $52.50 a share, valuing the company at $8-billion – a 47-per-cent premium.

Iran Avoids Taking Dollars, Euros for Oil Payments, Vice President Says

Iran, the second-largest oil producer in OPEC, wants to “move away” from taking payment in dollars and euros for its crude exports, the country’s vice president said today.

“Iran has the liberty to use the currency it favors,” Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi told reporters on the sidelines of an event at the Economy Ministry in Tehran. “We will do whatever is in the interest of the country.”

Sinopec Shuts Oil Wells in Southern China on Floods, Says Impact `Limited'

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the nation’s second-largest oil producer, said it shut some oil wells in southern China because of flooding.

The impact on the company’s oilfields is “limited” so far, Huang Wensheng, spokesman of the company known as Sinopec, said by telephone today, declining to specify the number of wells that were closed.

CNPC Says Supply of Piped Oil to Dalian Refinery Has Resumed After Blast

China National Petroleum Corp. resumed crude supplies through a pipeline to its refinery in Dalian after a blast at the port reduced plant operations and caused a spill that the government said may affect fish farms.

ETFs Imperil Commodity Investors When Contango Conspires With Pre-Rolling

People who would never think of buying a tanker of crude or a silo of wheat could now put both commodities in their 401(k)s. Suddenly everybody was a speculator.

And some were losing big. The commodity ETFs weren’t living up to their hype, and the reason had to do with a word Wolf had never heard before. As he browsed the blogs, he says, “I’m seeing people talking about something called contango. Nobody would define it.” Wolf called his broker and asked about contango.

Senate asking BP CEO to testify on Lockerbie

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate panel is inviting BP Plc chief executive Tony Hayward to testify next week at a hearing on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, a Senate source told Reuters on Wednesday.

BP sues former fuel oil, bunker staff -court papers

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – BP Plc has filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against six former employees of its global fuel oil and Asia bunker team who have quit since the end of May, according to court documents and company sources.

Oil spill workers prepare to evacuate as storm approaches Gulf of Mexico

With weather conditions deteriorating in the eastern Caribbean, crews on dozens of ships around the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico were preparing to evacuate Thursday, having stopped work on efforts to finally kill the well and installed a plug to protect the relief well they are building from storm-roughened seas.

Judge refuses to reinstate first oil drill ban

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday refused a request by environmental groups to reinstate the Obama administration's original moratorium on deepwater drilling set in the wake of the BP Plc oil spill.

Gulf Deep-Water Drilling Should Resume on Case-by-Case Basis, Expert Says

U.S. regulators could end a blanket ban on deep-water oil drilling by increasing oversight of troubled wells and improving safety industrywide, a California professor who studies catastrophes said in an interim report on the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Robert Bea, the University of California Berkeley engineering professor who studied the Columbia Space Shuttle explosion and the failure of New Orleans levees after Hurricane Katrina, said regulators should determine which drilling operations should be suspended “on a case-by-case basis” as the industry works to improve blowout prevention equipment, inspection procedures and worker training programs.

ONGC, PetroVietnam to bid for BP asset - Oil min

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – State-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp and PetroVietnam are considering a joint bid for BP's stake in an offshore Vietnam gas field, Oil Minister Murli Deora told Reuters on Thursday.

Workers Safety Fears On Doomed US Oil Rig

Workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig voiced concerns over safety just weeks before it exploded, causing the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a survey commissioned by the rig's owner Transocean they also raised worries about poor equipment reliability, which they believed was a result of drilling priorities taking precedence over maintenance.

Study: Dispersants don't seem to disrupt marine life

Dispersants used to battle the Gulf oil spill don't appear to interfere with reproduction, development and other biological processes in marine life, concludes a study by the Environmental Protection Agency reported Wednesday.

For Oysters, a ‘Remedy’ Turned Catastrophe

In late April, just days into what has turned out to be the largest oil spill in American history, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, with the support of local parish officials, ordered the opening of giant valves on the Mississippi River, releasing torrents of freshwater that they hoped would push oil back out to sea.

Now, reports indicate that the freshwater diversions have had a catastrophic impact on southeastern Louisiana’s oyster beds that is far in excess of the damage done by oil from the spill.

Pipeline Expansion: State's hands tied

There is a Keystone pipeline for crude oil that runs through Nebraska north to south, just east of Lincoln. Now, Sen. Annette Dubas and Sen. Kate Sullivan say Nebraska has little impact on an upcoming federal decision to build a pipeline expansion, Keystone XL.

"It's a federal project, so we (state government) don't really have any oversight," Dubas said.

Agencies Differ on Oil Sands Pipeline

A new pipeline would vastly expand the amount of oil extracted from Canadian oil sands that is used in the United States – which could be good in terms of energy security.

But environmental groups contend that this oil comes with an unacceptable array of environmental problems, from a relatively heavy production of greenhouse gas emissions to destruction of northern, or boreal, forests.

Legacy of nuke drilling site in Colorado lingers

In 1969, the government detonated a subterranean nuclear bomb to break loose natural gas deposits from tight sandstone formations more than 8,000 feet below ground on a Colorado mountain. The bomb was twice as powerful as the one that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

The scheme worked — to an extent. The gas was unlocked by the blast but was deemed too radioactive for commercial use.

Four decades later, energy companies are drilling near the nuclear site as they look to tap Colorado's lucrative oil and gas reserves. Some local residents say they don't trust the industry after what happened here and in the Gulf of Mexico during the oil spill. They're fearful that accidents could pollute the air with radioactive gas if drilling gets much closer.

Tasmania should turn nuclear

Tasmania could become the electricity "storage battery" for Australia by going nuclear.

Gap Plugged in Nuclear Fusion Project

A project to prove the viability of energy from nuclear fusion at a site in the south of France won a reprieve this week from the European Commission after costs ran significantly over budget.

The commission announced proposals to plug the hole in the project’s finances with an injection of 1.4 billion euros (about $1.8 billion) from research funds and unused money from other parts of the union’s budget. The money would be made available for 2012 and 2013. European Union governments and lawmakers must sign off on the plan.

China develops 5-trillion-yuan alternative energy plan

To promote the development of the emerging energy industries and meet the carbon emissions reduction targets of 2020, the National Energy Administration (NEA) has compiled a development plan for emerging energy industries from 2011 to 2020 that will require direct investments totaling 5 trillion yuan, according to the NEA on July 20.

Commercial Airlines May Get 1% of Fuel From Biofuels By 2015, Boeing Says

Commercial airlines may derive 1 percent of their fuel by 2015 from biofuels made of plants including algae, Boeing Co.’s environment chief said.

Carriers including British Airways Plc and Continental Airlines Inc. are testing the carbon-cutting alternative fuels as the global air industry accelerates efforts to slash greenhouse-gases blamed for global warming.

Ethanol or not to ethanol - that is the question

Retail gasoline marketers are taking on a new mantra these days, "to ethanol or not to ethanol," as consumers decide whether the renewable fuel is best for anything from a Mini Cooper to a tractor.

While the US government mandates ethanol blending requirements up to 10%, some retailers - who can still get non-blended gasoline - are giving their customers options.

Couple lives nearly trash-free for a year

Could you live trash-free? A young couple spent the past year figuring out whether that's possible. Their answer: absolutely.

"It was actually a lot easier than we expected," says Amy Korst, 26, a recently laid-off high school teacher in Dallas, Ore. She and husband Adam bought only items they could recycle or compost to avoid adding to landfills.

Ideas at the heart of children's writing

People always need stories and story-telling becomes more important as we become hesitant about the future and where we are heading, she says.

Absorbed, the book she has been working on during her residency, is set in the near future, during peak oil when the price of petrol has risen to more than $7 a litre.

"In the book, the streets are clogged with cyclists and pedestrians and the buses are full.

It's interesting to imagine a world when we can't use petrol and global warming is starting to affect our lives," she says.

When the sky falls: A new Chicken Little story

There are many books available on the topic of peak oil and climate change, but I highly recommend “The Long Emergency” by James Howard Kunstler, “Peak Everything” by Richard Heinberg, and “The Long Descent” by John Michael Greer to get you good and terrified of the future that we’re heading into at full speed.

After reading the books listed above, which outline the current crises and why technology won’t save us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated before you’ve even begun your most important tasks, preparing yourself and your family. I urge you to also read books like “Blessed Unrest” by Paul Hawken and The “Transition Handbook” by Rob Hopkins. Both show a positive, uplifting path through these difficult times.

Heat wave in Russia caused by global warming - environmentalists

A blistering heat wave in Russia has been caused by man-made global warming, WWF Russia and Greenpeace Russia said on Wednesday.

For the past four weeks temperatures across western Russia have topped 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), killing scores of people and creating what is thought to be the worst drought since 1972.

Many farmers are on the brink of bankruptcy, while a state of emergency has been declared in 17 Russian regions. Nearly 10 million hectares of crops have been destroyed by drought.

Washington group sues governor over climate order

A conservative think tank and a handful of Washington residents are suing Gov. Chris Gregoire over a 2007 executive order aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Fiji Calls on Leaders to Address Climates Change

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has told leaders at the Engaging with the Pacific meeting that the Pacific small islands states must make a stand on Climate Change.

“ We the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) face a number of challenges that are peculiar to us,” he said.

UN Proposes Stopgaps as Global Climate Talks Fail to Renew Kyoto Treaty

A United Nations climate group said it may be possible to extend emission caps included in the Kyoto Protocol for two years after they expire in 2012, preventing an interruption in the supply of offset credits.

China to start domestic carbon trading

China will start a national system for trading carbon and other greenhouse gases for the next the five years starting from 2011, China Daily reported on Tuesday quoting an unnamed source.

Masdar to turn carbon-neutral into cash-positive

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government’s clean energy company, is set to become the first in the GCC to earn lucrative international credits for efforts to fight global warming.

The credits from two projects backed by the company, worth about €1.13 million (Dh5.3m) per year at current prices, are likely to be the first among scores of clean energy investments to eventually channel hundreds of millions of dirhams annually from the UN-administered carbon credit market to UAE companies.

Pretty good article proclaiming the the Gulf Oil Disaster will mean great things for Canada.

Oil Crisis to the South, But Oil Opportunity to the North

Certainly in the U.S., and doubtless the world over, the GOM disaster will spark tighter restrictions and higher costs for deep-water development. So let’s look at what’s going on with deep water and then compare it with what’s happening far from the sea, in the interior of the North American continent, up in Canada’s oil sands country.

The bottom line is that the GOM oil disaster will benefit energy development in Canada — and you can profit. But this gets ahead of the discussion…

CIS is "Commonwealth of Independent States", mostly Russia and most of the rest of the FSU.

Ron P.

I didn't think there was enough gas or water to develop Canada's heavy oil much further ?

nukes for heat energy , maybe, radioactive oil - I can see the headlines now.....

but water ?


PS: and the enviromental effects may not be on the beach but on the landscape , watercourses and CO2 in the air.....

They are heading towards water-neutral, or may be there already. With the recent extraction technologies the water use will go down significantly. There is a plan afoot to supply all the electrical power to the region with renewable energy sources and nuclear plants won't be necessary. CC NG plants may be constructed to backstop the renewable sources.

Radioactive oil? People get more radioactive exposure from the tip of a cigarette than they get from a nuclear reactor.


still won't stop some from scaremongering - which was my point



I hadn't heard of these plans before. What renewable energy sources are they planning on using? That's going to take quite a bit of energy to cook all that bitumen. The only thing I would guess might work is hydro.

They don't just need heat, they need hydrogen, because the 'oil sands' are not oil, but a degraded hydrocarbon with too little hydrogen to be of use for anything other than smearing on dusty roads.

There are some plans to get the heat and hydrogen, most of which comes today from natural gas, from the bitumen itself.

If this proceeds then the CO2 emissions will skyrocket.

The 'tar pits', as George Bush the second accurately called them, are a disaster on every front, from the environment to the economy.

The disastrous environmental impacts get a lot of attention.

More attention needs to be paid to the negative economic effects. In addition to the costs being 'externalized' by the greenhouse gas contribution of the tar pits, the more immediate and important negative economic impact derives from the opportunity costs. Simply stated, the capital employed to turn the 'pits' into product would generate far more energy for essential uses if it was employed instead in conservation efforts, such as building insulation, or rail electrification, to name only two possibilities.

The misallocation of capital represents a huge economic loss. The misallocation problem is rooted in the capital accumulation process, which allows people with a vested interest to allocate the capital in the wrong place.

All markets are designed by government, whether that government is elected or self-chosen, such as the Hell's Angels in many drug markets. The Canadian and Alberta governments sadly have long been captured by the 'any and all' hydrocarbon pushers.

The bitumen produced from the oil sands is just extremely heavy oil. It's like molasses. You have to heat it or dilute it with condensate to get it to move through pipelines, but you can modify the front end of a heavy oil refinery to input it directly into the refinery processes. You just have to do some more aggressive refining on it to turn it into gasoline and diesel fuel - put more money into the crackers and reformers.

Most of California's oil production is not a great deal different from Canadian bitumen. You have to inject steam to get Kern River heavy oil out of the ground, and you need to have a specially designed refinery to process it to gasoline and diesel, so it's not intrinsically different from bitumen.

Many of the Midwest refineries have been modified to take Canadian bitumen directly, and there are plans afoot to extend the pipelines to the refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Frankly, those refineries don't have much choice any more with the ongoing decline in US onshore production, and the upcoming decline in offshore production. Realistically, their choice is between Canadian bitumen or Venezuelan extra-heavy oil. Not much of a choice.

IF we don't want it, China does. Canada would need to put the bitumen on trains, then boats, but it could be done.

Once Canada's oil imports go down, I expect Canada will want more refined bitumen as well.

Even now, when people read about lack of gasoline (temporarily) up in Alberta, I am sure there are a few wondering why they don't refine more of the bitumen and keep it there.

The existing TransMountain pipeline is currently capable of taking 300,000 bpd of bitumen to Vancouver, where much of it is loaded onto Aframax tankers, the biggest Vancouver can handle. The tankers generally are headed for California, but there's nothing that says they can't go to Asia instead.

In late May, Enbridge filed for approval for a 525,000 bpd pipeline to take bitumen from Edmonton to the northern BC port of Kitimat, with a parallel condensate pipeline to move diluent back the other way. The advantage of Kitimat is that it is deep enough to handle Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), the biggest oil tankers in the world. Obviously, the target market for that pipeline is exports to Asia. The project web site is at http://www.northerngateway.ca/

The shortages of gasoline in Alberta are just a temporary refinery hiccup. I remember pulling into a Petro-Canada filling station near Edmonton one time, and it was out of gas despite the fact you could see the giant Petro-Canada refinery from the filling station. The cat cracker unit had gone down down and they were short about 125,000 bpd of products. Its hard to find that much replacement fuel on short notice, particularly since the pipelines all run out of rather than into Alberta.

Probably planning on excess BC Hydro after site c is built on the Peace

Actually, there is somewhere between 6-10 GW of wind viability in the region of BC adjacent to Edmonton and Ft. Mac. That is proven economically viable wind, I've taken out the the other 50% that would have to wait for viable conditions.

Gail hit it on the head, but I can't say more. I hope there will be announcements this fall. I think Kitimat will be a dead end because nobody wants the pipeline feeding an oil port there.

Site C, oh boy...

People get more radioactive exposure from the tip of a cigarette than they get from a nuclear reactor.

Depends on the reactor, the nature of the radiation, and your location.

Hanging out a few feet from Chernobyl is gonna be worse than a few feet from a cig.

Infrared radiation is different than Gamma radiation.

And somehow I doubt a lit cig is much of a 'target' in 'war', whereas things like a reactor would be.

I didn't think there was enough gas or water to develop Canada's heavy oil much further ?

Some people would have you believe that, but I checked the Alberta government data, and permits have been issued for only 5% of the water in the Athabasca River, which runs through the middle of the Athabasca oil sands. Only half of that is assigned to oil sands projects, and the rest to industry and agriculture. If you doubled the amount of water going to oil sands projects, you would still be only allocating 7.5% of the water in the river.

By contrast, many of the rivers in Southern Alberta have 70% of their water allocated, and problems are starting to develop as residential developments and industries are denied permits for new developments. Ultimately, they are going to have to shut down irrigation water to farms in Southern Alberta in order to meet the demand from its rapidly growing cities and towns. I'm on the planning commission for one of the towns on one of these rivers, so I know whereof I speak.

However, the Athabasca River is bigger than all the rivers to the south of it in Alberta, combined, and there are very few people that far north, so I think the concerns are entirely hypothetical. If they tried to supply the entire US demand for oil from the Athabasca oil sands, it could become a problem. A few million barrels per day of incremental production is manageable.

I suspect the issue originally arose because people started looking at the theoretical demand if the US oil shale deposits to the south of the Canadian oil sands were developed. The US Southwest is semi-arid, so, yes, oil shale development would be water-constrained. However, Northwestern Canada has far more water than the Southwestern US, so I think the concerns are entirely misplaced. Canada, after all, has about 10% of the world's fresh water and only 0.5% of its population.

The Uppsala gang had a look at Canadian oil sands in 2006.

They say:

We have not dealt with a number of important subjects like pipeline capacity, refinery capacity and water consumption forecasts. These aspects have been considered of less importance than the subjects treated in the article. It has been assumed that these matters will not restrict the development of the Canadian oil sands industry.

They consider gas the main constraint and come up with this long-term scenario:

So far, they don't seem to have overestimated.

But then there are wildcards, such as the THAI process...

Realistically, there is not going to be a crash program to develop the oil sands, and oil sands production is not going to prevent Peak Oil. Production is going to be ramped up very slowly, and conventional oil production is likely to decline sharply worldwide.

However, oil sands willl provide a cushion against a sudden global collapse in oil production for the US - that is if the US does not put barriers in place to prevent its import into the US and otherwise upset Canadian authorities. In that case, they will provide a cushion for China because Canadians don't really care who gets the oil as long as they pay in hard currency.

The natural gas problem is not that difficult for oil sands production because there is a large amount of non-conventional gas lurking nearby in NE BC that most people don't know about. Also, oil sands is a preferred consumer of gas in Alberta. The Alberta government will deal with declining gas production by curtailing exports to the US and diverting supplies to the oil sands. People who think this will not happen haven't read the planning documents.

The US government seems to be aware of none of this, so I think the US is just going to be blindsided by events. Attention: Americans - be prepared to have your government fumble the ball again, as usual. Buy a small, fuel-efficient car, and also a bicycle for backup in case things really go South.

Or East...

Want to Cut Your Building's Energy Costs? Get Out Your Camera

Many of today's buildings suffer from what we'll call the "leak-guzzle-hide" phenomenon:

They leak billions of dollars through poor moisture, temperature and air pressure control -- akin to driving around with a massive leak in your gas tank.

They guzzle energy to satiate inefficient and often over-sized lighting, heating and cooling equipment, even when building occupancy is low. This is like commuting solo every day to work in an RV purchased for that once-a-year camping trip.

And they hide energy performance information due to poor metering and byzantine building management systems. Think about this as driving with your car's dashboard blackened out.

See: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/07/22/want-cut-your-buildings-energy-c...


Hey Paul that's great info.

I have a 15 year old who is a math and science nerd and is a whiz with 3D computer modeling. I may put some effort into creating a service that I can offer my customers and provide a job for my kid as well... There aren't many jobs for teenagers on summer vacation around here, where I am at the moment. Time to get creative.

TKS for the idea!

Glad to hear it, Fred. Always great when your child can channel their passions into something that is personally rewarding and hopefully profitable, and that is complimentary to your own line of work as well. Best of luck to you both on this new venture.



July 29, 2010 at the Downtown Independent Theater, 251 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 617-1033 Showtimes at 5:15pm, 7pm and 9:30pm. $10 ($8 for matinee screening). Filmmakers will be present for Q & A and after screening party.

Houston We Have a Problem stands out in the surge of films that address “green” issues. It takes a close examination inside the energy capital of the world to see America's dangerous appetite for oil consumption. Today, in the midst of unsolvable wars, global warming, recession, peak oil, and oil spills, the world’s energy demand continues to skyrocket. The U.S. energy demand alone is predicted to go up 50% in the next 20 years. Hear the confessions of oilmen, who work in the trenches every day, scrambling to feed America’s ferocious appetite.

The film traces the history of oil drilling in America and how the United States came to rely on foreign oil, from the Texas oilmen themselves, tracking Congress' empty promises for alternative energy since the 1970s. The energy policy of the USA has only been a strategy of defense, not offense, problems (like the recent Gulf disaster, an inevitable tragedy) that extend far beyond profit, politics, and party lines. However, a new form of “Wildcatting” in alternatives is changing the oil industry and the country. HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM brings both sides together, seeking solutions, making it clear that we must embrace all forms of alternatives in order to save the planet and ourselves.

Director/Producer Nicole Torre has gathered exclusive interviews with an A-list cast of Texas oil barons, Wildcatters, and top executives, including the former president of Shell Oil, the chairman of BP Capital, Sen. Harry Reed, the US Senate Majority Leader, Van Jones, Founder of Green for All, and Middle East adviser Joanne Herring, who married the founder of Enron and was the basis for Julia Roberts' role in Charlie Wilson's War. Ms. Torre, a self-described ‘tree hugging liberal,’ was in Houston with an assignment to do a puff piece on socialites when she met her first real ‘Oil Baron.’ She was surprised by how strongly he was in favor of alternative energy and thus began her education on oil/energy as a commodity and a volatile part of the economic cycle.

Houston We Have a Problem had its World Premiere at AFI Dallas in 2009, and has played many film festivals, including an official selection at the Calgary International Film Festival, Cambridge UK Film Festival, The International Documentary Film Festival – Amsterdam, The United Nations Association Film Festival, San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the San Diego Film Festival and the Environmental Film Festivals at Yale, Princeton and Barcelona, Spain. The film played as part of the Documentary Fortnight at the New York Museum of Modern Art and Nicole Torre won Best Director at Docuwest Film Festival.

See the trailer and more information on the film at www.HoustonWeHaveAProblemFilm.com

Political discussion of the film from Press TV after it played the Cambridge Film Festival, UK

Alternet has published an excerpt of an interesting new book called

Terrorism and the Economy: How the War on Terror is Bankrupting the World, by Loretta Napoleoni

I've read Napoleoni's previous books on different aspects of terrorism, and this new one seems well worth a read.

The "Masters of the Universe" are really simpletons, people who have undermined the world economy for the sake of easy profits, thereby destroying the very system that supported them without even being aware of what they were doing. The politicians, too, are simpletons, making us believe that al-Qaeda was able to crush our world in order to pursue its hidden agenda when, in reality, those who were destroying it were prospering within it.

The financial sector that brought us to the credit crunch cannot, however, be defined as capitalism; Marx would be quick to point this out. It is rather a mix of political magicians, Monopoly players, and swindlers. True, authentic capitalism--that of the Industrial Revolution and the early 1900s--was an adversary worthy of respect, which exploited but neither stole nor swindled. It was also a shrewd and intelligent rival. This is the fundamental difference with the past: today those made rich by globalization are either thieves or simpletons.

However, we citizens of the global village, upon whom falls the tragic consequences of this crisis, also have behaved with arrogance and a lack of common sense. We have allowed the politicians to convince us to overextend ourselves in order to realize all our consumerist dreams: the house, the car, the vacations, the branded clothes and accessories, the high-tech gadgets, and more. This spending frenzy led us to believe that we were rich and powerful when, in reality, high finance was sucking our accounts dry and leaving us ever poorer. We acclaimed those who sold us these fantasies, the first and foremost of which was the fear of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.


How the War on Terror is Bankrupting the World

Now that's not true.

Part of the world is going bankrupt. Odds are the part you are in.

But other parts are doing quite well with the transfer of wealth.

Yeah, I know what you mean, but on the other hand, I don't think the original statement is all that far fetched. War means, essentially, wasting natural resources, rather than doing anything productive with them. When those resources are blown away in a war, they are not transferred to anybody; they are just blown away.

That's just because modern war is sucky at doing its job. Its job being to kill off lots of people to leave more per-capita resources to the survivors. Modern war just takes too many resources whereas old-timey warfare just used a few sticks and stones.

War does the job well when the perpetrators are not fussy about the means. A good example is The Second Congo War for which there are an estimated 5.8 million deaths due to war and the attendant starvation and disease. This is partly ethnic genocide over restricted resources, which usually results in relatively efficient killing. Chopping the arms off of captives with machetes and letting them bleed to death can be done quite inexpensively.

War never seems to reduce populations.

True, authentic capitalism--that of the Industrial Revolution and the early 1900s--was an adversary worthy of respect, which exploited but neither stole nor swindled.

Huh?? Why do you suppose the 'robber barons' of 'authentic capitalism' were called this? Simply because stealing and swindling were their modus operandi.

It always frustrates me how people so easily ignore how wealth is acquired. A simple read of history will reveal how the massive wealth accumulations almost always originate through violent and/or nefarious resource acquisition.

How about the great wealth accumulated by Bill Gates and by Warren Buffett? Please explain how these great accumulations originated "through violent and/or nefarious resource acquisition." Or are these two cases merely "exceptions" under your "almost always" qualifier? How many exceptions do we need to break your rule?

i don't know about warren buffett, but microsoft has a history of being shady.

What exactly do you mean by "shady"? That's a pretty vague term. Could you provide specifics?

i'd call shameless fud, avoiding open standards, and the whole "trying to be a monopoly" thing shady. but you're right, they've never done anything violent afaik, nor have they stolen anything. just a little shady.

but what huge corporation hasn't been a little shady? not strictly illegal, or at least debatably illegal, but still a little shady. and i think that's probably the point.

What exactly do you mean by "shady"? That's a pretty vague term. Could you provide specifics?

1. M$ antitrust trial.
2. SCO trial - will refer you to groklaw.net
3. The movie "Antitrust"


Google "Netscape Browser Wars" for starters. I'm sure if you ask the folks at the now defunct Netscape Communications Corporation they might have a few choice words to say about MicroSoft and I'm pretty sure that "Shady" would be a descriptor that they might use often when referring to Mr. Gate's tactics...

Of course I don't recall any intercontinental ballistic missiles being launched by Microsoft but I'm sure a lot of people lost their livelihoods due to the more than shady way in which Microsoft has been well documented to have operated in that and many other cases...

They fully benefited from a society that practices" violent and/or nefarious resource acquisition" and wealth associated with it. Constant increasing access to resources underpins all wealth accumulation. Of course, over last few hundreds of years, people had to be convinced in one form or another to give up their resources. Most often in unpleasant ways.


I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.[12]

Your answer is nonresponsive to my comment: I asked about two specific individuals who had accumulated great wealth, and your comment is to condemn capitalism in general. I'm not asking about capitalism in general (too broad a category) but about the business practices of the two richest men in the United States.

I don't know much about Warren Buffet, but Bill Gates has a well earned reputation in the computer industry for "sharp dealing".

Is any of that "sharp dealing" (examples please) dishonest or illegal?

Dishonest, definitely. Deliberately making Windows refuse to run if run atop DrDOS during the betas of Windows 3 was very dishonest. Mind you, the production version ran just fine, but by then word on the street was that it wouldn't work.

Illegal? Well, they do have that abuse of monopoly conviction out there.

One could argue that the very acquisition of QDOS to sell to IBM was dishonest as well, but even their worst detractors would be hard pressed to find anything actually illegal about buying an asset for a fixed cost when you know you can make a recurring revenue stream from it.

I concede that Bill gates used sharp attorneys in his business. But did Microsoft depend on the "violent acquisition of resources"?

Business is not something to be conducted by angels or bleeding hearts.

To my knowledge Microsoft never used physical violence to achieve their ends. Economic violence would have been the source of that abuse of monopoly conviction.

But you asked me about dishonest and illegal means. Neither of those require violence, and a legal conviction generally falls from illegal acts.

Microsoft has not been broken up due to monopolistic practices. Its legal conviction was a mere slap on the wrist for a mere pecadillo.

Buying off the administration in power has that effect, doesn't it?

So because they weren't broken up it was legal?

That's a pretty thin branch, and I think you know it.

If Microsoft had violated the Sherman Antitrust Law, it would have been broken up. Major corporations, such as AT&T and the original Standard Oil were broken up.

My point is that capitalism in the late twentieth century was nothing like capitalism in the late nineteenth century. Some do not seemed to have grasped that essential point.

Your logic is faulty. Breakup is not a required punishment for violations of the Sherman Act, and was considered during the Netscape trial but was rejected in favor of the slap on the wrist they did get.

In the late 19th C. hiring Pinkertons to beat people up that wouldn't cooperate with you was more acceptable than it is today. A fact for which I am sure my fingers are grateful.

You know full well, Don, that Microsoft has been convicted of anti-trust violations, and has paid fines without admitting guilt in order to avoid trial in other cases. Further, they have been convicted of anti-trust type violations in Europe as well, using their market share to browbeat other companies into locking out competitors. That action HAS been found to have been dishonest, not that the final result now, 20+ years later, does squat for the poor small companies that Microsoft already destroyed.

Further, Microsoft has been frequently accused of and then settled charges of patent infringement, knowingly using technology developed by others for their own profit (the common man calls that theft, sir) while trying to screw over the companies that created it.

Being a sharp dealer is not the same as being found guiilty and Microsoft has been found so in past trials. Unfortunately, Bill Gates also has enough money to buy off most prosecutions so they don't end up being much more than a piddling fine rather than the ultimate breakup of a clear monopoly.

United States v. Microsoft - Wikipedia

Microsoft litigation - Wikipedia

There is plenty of other documentation of these violations by Microsoft too, but I bet you knew that already.

Even the early years of Microsoft were beset by legal problems, and they were ultimately found to have defrauded Seattle Computer Products when they purchased 86-DOS from them, then renamed it MS-DOS. Microsoft ultimately had to pay SCP over 20 times what it originally paid SCP when it was found that Microsoft had misrepresented itself in the deal to acquire 86 DOS.

86-DOS - Wikipedia

Microsoft is not a "sharp" dealer. They are "shady" dealers, deliberately walking the edge of the law and frequently walking over it. There are numerous other high tech firms that do not have the stink of Microsoft, yet you chose them for your example and they prove the very points made by others that you seem intent on trying to disprove.

There's a difference between just being a hard nosed businessman and being a robber baron and Bill Gates is a modern robber baron.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. By no means is Bill Gates tarred with the same brush as the robber barons of the nineteenth century--men who blatantly stole, bribed, and bought legislators. There is a lot of difference between hiring sharp attorneys and buying off Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.

Microsoft has received slaps on the wrist because that is what they deserved. The U.S. Justice Department and other governmental agencies put enormous resources into largely futile prosecution of Microsoft--because (compared to BAU) Microsoft didn't do anything very bad--and certainly did not seize resources by violent means.

One man's hardball business practices are another man's "nefarious."

I think you are way off the beam in comparing Bill Gates to (for example) the railway magnates of the nineteenth century, men who corrupted whole governments, men who hired armed thugs to kill and intimidate union organizers, men who actually did buy judges. Microsoft has done none of that. It just makes no sense to lump in Bill Gates with the robber barons of the nineteenth century.

the mega corporations of today do corrupt whole governments with money and lobbyists. just because it's legal doesn't make it any less corrupting, and because of that unions are, for the most part, a non-issue, and buying a judge is small potatoes. modern day robber barons are less brutal now because their domination is more complete. once you break a horse you can have quite a peaceful relationship with it.


What is the purpose of this wholly disingenuous hagiography of Gates and Buffet?

So businessmen are less violent in the USA? Big whoop.

Nigeria? Diamonds? Copper? Tin? Uranium? Coltan? Lumber? Fish?

A man can be very blind and deaf if his paycheck depends on it.

Both Gates and Buffett fall into the category that might be termed 'secondary' wealth accumulators. I'm not sure how many iterations one must go through to launder wealth that is originally based on stolen resources, but it is an interesting ethical and moral question. Buffy Saint-Marie sings a song in which she points out that we (Americans) are all profiting from the oppression and extermination of indigenous Americans.

We are seeing, right now, a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class and working class to the upper rich elite. I think this is happening because the elites basically make the laws. So while it may be legal to use great wealth to make even greater wealth, I don't think it is necessarily moral or ethical. Both Gates and Buffett profit from the way the system is organized and I'm sure both would use their considerable wealth to lobby against laws or tax-code changes that would have them contribute a greater share of their wealth to the common well-being.

More on the OPOC high efficiency engine being developed by Ecomotors:


That motor is indeed an ingenious design.

I watched the videos and spent a while contemplasting the drawings.

I'n not an engineer asd cannot say anyting about the fuel efficiency or cleanliness of the design, but I am a fairly decent mechanic and judge of machinery.

If they build the quality in, this engine looks as it it will last and be about as dependable as other designs, maybe even better;but the connecting rods, or whatever they choose to call them, are going to be a real problem if they don't keep the rpm down.

The ones serving the outer pistons are going to be unusually long, leading to flexing problems, from the looks of it.

I don't see the outer connecting rods as much of a problem. Once running, they will always be under tension, first while pulling the piston into the compression cycle and then under tension as the high pressure gases push against the piston during expansion. I think the main advantages will be low weight and almost no vibration. Fuel economy isn't likely to exceed that of present large scale opposed piston 2 cycle diesels, but we won't know until they have an engine available for commercial use.

E. Swanson

According to the article they are working on a 3800RPM red line for efficiency reasons, and according to the interview posted earlier the outer piston ties are always under tension (Either being pulled out by the piston or pulling the piston back in) which makes flexing problems less of an issue.

Oh, and 1HP/lb.

Gotcha, thanks folks-need to read that again and study the drawing again-keeping the OUTER rod in tension is a heck of an OBVIOUS trick but I see it now.

Heh, it's an amazingly obvious configuration. But only once you've seen it.

The guy who thought this up is absolutely brilliant.

You gotta love Candadafreepress. I've been following their appearances in the Drumbeat for a while. They've become the new standard bearers of Business as Usual apologia. I can't think of another "news" outlet that wears its biases on its sleeve more than them outside of FoxNews.

The Green River Shale formation of Western Colorado and Utah could, theoretically, supply a fair percentage of the US oil demand. Most estimates of the oil content are in the 1.5 trillion US bbl range. The problems in getting that oil are many, though.

First, as was mentioned above, it takes water. Lots of water. And that isn't an easy commodity to get in this semi-arid region. I gave a talk on that issue at the (then) University of Southern Colorado back in 1983. One of my points was that, if we can build an 800 mile pipeline across some of the most hostile terrain on earth to move North Slope oil, then we could also build a longer but much easier pipeline to bring ocean water to the Green River region. Saline water is fine for the extraction process, and would be desalinated during use such that it could be released into the environment with no problems. Needless to say, I was laughed at - way too expensive. Well, that was then, and this is now. It could still be done.

The second problem is more difficult. The oil would best be extracted in situ, using steam injection to mobilize it, but there's a huge problem with that. The darned shale has miserable permeability. You would need to devise some method of fracturing it to create channels for the oil to flow. And I'm not talking about a simple frac at well sites - it has to be done over miles. IMO, it's not economic, if even possible, to do that. So that leaves the other option, which is open-cast mining. Obviously you would run into a lot of environmental opposition to that idea. But supposing it won approval, it would work.

But then you hit the even bigger third problem: What to do with the spent shale? The spent shale would be powder fine and quite toxic. Not just with oil residue, that formation is also loaded with sodium carbonate. Plus it would contain the salt residue from that seawater. It's not something that could be used as backfill, as it would leach into the groundwater. So how do you get rid of millions of tons of this crap? I have no answer to that one. But I think someone needs to come up with answers. That formation will eventually be needed - desperately.

"But I think someone needs to come up with answers. "

It's called POWERDOWN. Maybe you've heard of it? Or would you rather we burn every hydrocarbon on the planet and see what's left of our atmosphere afterwards?

Researchers: EPA should recognize environmental impact of protecting foreign oil

U.S. military operations to protect oil imports coming from the Middle East are creating larger amounts of greenhouse gas emissions than once thought, new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows.

Regulators do not currently attribute these emissions to U.S. gasoline use – but they should, the authors say.

UNL researchers Adam Liska and Richard Perrin estimate that emissions of heat-trapping gases resulting from military protection of supertankers in the Persian Gulf amount to 34.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year. In addition, the war in Iraq releases another 43.3 million metric tons of CO2 annually.

"Our conservative estimate of emissions from military security alone raises the greenhouse gas intensity of gasoline derived from imported Middle Eastern oil by 8 to 18 percent," said Liska, UNL assistant professor of biological systems engineering, and coordinator of the Energy Sciences minor. "In order to have a balanced assessment of the climate change impacts of substituting biofuels for gasoline, a comparison of all direct and indirect emissions from both types of fuel is required."

Solar-powered process could decrease carbon dioxide to pre-industrial levels in 10 years

(PhysOrg.com) -- By using the sun's visible light and heat to power an electrolysis cell that captures and converts carbon dioxide from the air, a new technique could impressively clean the atmosphere and produce fuel feedstock at the same time. The key advantage of the new solar carbon capture process is that it simultaneously uses the solar visible and solar thermal components, whereas the latter is usually regarded as detrimental due to the degradation that heat causes to photovoltaic materials. However, the new method uses the sun’s heat to convert more solar energy into carbon than either photovoltaic or solar thermal processes alone.

Does this sound too good to be true?

By using the sun's visible light and heat to power an electrolysis cell that captures and converts carbon dioxide from the air, a new technique could impressively clean the atmosphere and produce fuel feedstock at the same time.

If you replace the word "electrolysis" with the word "plant", the fuel feedstock that is produced is something known as "firewood".

Seriously though, this DOES sound too good to be true.

Masdar to turn carbon-neutral into cash-positive

Instead of reading TOD on the interwebs we could have driven down to the shopping mall to buy a magazine. Therefore we all deserve carbon credits.

They used to say 'virtue is its own reward'. Apparently not so with saving carbon emissions; you not only avoid any carbon taxes but you get to sell a carbon offset to someone else. That means every unit of energy gets paid for twice, the original cost then whoever buys the credit. In all likelihood emissions increase since your clean energy or efficiency gain does not displace the offset buyer's dirty energy.

This idea must have been thought up by the Enron accounting department. I say it is legal fraud. What might have a chance of reducing emissions is carbon taxes but with no freebies from offsets.

Anti-Alberta tourism billboards only the opening shot

You get a strong sense that those recent anti-oil sands billboards just erected in four U.S. cities targeting Alberta tourism are only the beginning a new phase in what could prove a long, bitter fight between Canada’s powerful oil industry and environmentalists.

The eye-catching billboards read “Alberta: The OTHER Oil Disaster” next to photos of the BP Oil Spill and a gooey mess next to it labeled “Alberta Tar Sands Oil Disaster.”

For far-off Alberta, the Gulf oil spill has created a lot of headaches and what’s also called a major “P.R. problem.” As the world’s easy-to-get-at oil becomes scarcer, we now know, getting at the rest is messier.”

See: http://blogs.marketwatch.com/canada/2010/07/21/anti-alberta-tourism-bill...


Might see a few billboards with our name too...

N.S. to ease mercury emission targets to offset proposed electricity rate hikes

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia will soften its mercury emission targets in a bid to reduce electricity rate hikes proposed by the province's privately owned utility, Premier Darrell Dexter said Thursday.

Nova Scotia Power has said it plans to seek approval for rate increases in the fall to help cover the increased costs of burning cleaner coal in order to meet emission targets.

The company has predicted hikes of 12 per cent for residential users and 18 per cent for businesses, something the NDP government wants to avoid.

"Our obligation was to find the right balance ... that protects ratepayers, that makes sure that businesses are able to have a competitive energy environment and to protect over the long term our environment from mercury emissions," Dexter said.

An annual mercury emissions cap for this year was set at 65 kilograms under a federal-provincial agreement signed in 2000. Up until last year, the cap was 168 kilograms.

See: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/greenpage/environment/ns-to-ease-air-qu...


Emissions goal eased to trim N.S. rate hike

The Nova Scotia government is loosening its pollution requirements for Nova Scotia Power in an effort to trim a proposed rate increase next year.

In June, the electrical utility said it wanted to increase power rates in 2011 to offset the cost of clean-burning coal.

Premier Darrell Dexter announced Thursday the government will extend the deadline for achieving an emissions cap for mercury until 2014. The limit was supposed to be in place by the end of this year.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2010/07/22/ns-emissions-targe...

A sad day for this province.


An annual mercury emissions cap for this year was set at 65 kilograms under a federal-provincial agreement signed in 2000. Up until last year, the cap was 168 kilograms.

That is a pretty large change if applied as a step function (all at once). I think phasing in over a few years is a better way to go. And that way there isn't a single large rate hike that people will blame of enviro standards, but rather a slow creep of rates. It ought to give you enough time to convert a lot of people away from their wasteful ways before the rate increase becomes fully active. It gives people time to not be blindsided by the increase (because they weren't paying attention), and then to take steps to increase their efficiency.

Hi EoS,

I would agree if NSP hadn't had ten years to prepare for these new regulations (if I recall correctly, they were put in place in 2000). What's to prevent this same scenario from repeating itself in another four years time?


Is there a website which gives the total oil produced (ever) by country? Also, historical data on oil production by country?
All I seem to find are current data....I kind of want to know about the past more.
Any good websites for historians of petroleum? Or what would they be called...petroleum historians? Is there such a job?

Pi, I use the EIA's International Petroleum Monthly They give the monthly data going back to 2001 and the yearly data going back to 1970.

Click on 1. Petroleum (Oil) Production if oil production is what you want. Then you can click on 1.1a thru 1.1d for monthly data and 1.4a thru 1.4d for yearly data. They give production numbers for 37 nations and all the other smaller producers are grouped together under the name "Other".

Ron P.

Thank you, Ron!

That is helpful. I will certainly check that out.

But I was thinking of even further past. 100 years. 50 years. 70 years ago.

I wish you the best of luck with that but I don't think anyone kept production data back that far.

Ron P.

That is also interesting information---"that nobody kept data". Very likely you are correct. It never occurred to me that they wouldn`t. But of course probably they wouldn`t have had the technology to do that. Thank you again.